Archive for August, 2012

Cod Liver, a forgotten superfood

This was my snack today at tea time: cod liver from Norway (unfortunately, canned). This was the very first time I had this, so I expected a very fishy taste. But thankfully, its taste is very mild, it resembles duck foie gras! I ate it as-is, but I watched a recipe about it over at Martha Stewart’s website (by an Icelandic chef), and the consensus is that it tastes like “lite” foie gras. A lot of D3 and vitamin A in it too, one of these superfoods that people never eat. Even better when fermented. Considering that this is much healthier than non-wild, forced-fed ducks and that it costs about 30x cheaper than true foie gras, I think it’s a great choice.

Why modern philosophy fails today

So I was reading a bit of philosophy recently (a bit of Alain Badiou and Sartre). Since I’m not a native English speaker it was hard to read, but I think I pulled through for most of it. Regardless, the “language” and altered definitions these modern philosophers use is unnecessarily complex in my opinion. It’s like linguistic masturbation, showing off to other philosophers who would read their books.

And then it occurred to me.

See, I’m Greek. I’m used to the idea of Socrates walking down to the Athenian Agora and starting talking to strangers. Presenting them with questions, with riddles, with thoughts they never thought possible. Diogenes was always my favorite philosopher because he was a no-shit guy. He had some ideas, and he lived by them, and showed others how to live a good life too.

To me, that’s the real worth of a philosopher. A philosopher for me is not different than what one would consider a “holy man” who talks to, and freely advises strangers in the streets or other settings. But in this case, instead of spreading religion, he spreads knowledge, opens minds, and instigates progress. He’s the Initiator.

Instead, what we have today is these academic types who speak a language that no one understands. The public doesn’t understand them, plain and simple. This is a crime in my opinion. It’s a major disservice to 2700 years of philosophy. So what kind of philosophy is this today? Only for those who pay to learn about it in these private colleges of ours? It’s like their language is so complex on purpose. When was the last time that Badiou hosted a FREE summer camp for example? He’s a communist after all, but I’ve never heard of him do anything for the “community”.

And let me go a step further. When was the last time that a philosopher walked down the mall, sat down with a sign saying that he’s available for any type of conversation, and awaited people to come to him? I’ve never seen any philosopher doing this neither I heard of anyone doing this, and yet this is the DEFAULT behavior I’d expect from a philosopher. A philosopher doesn’t have to become a missionary man or join a humanitarian cause in order to do “good”. Or write books that are more difficult to decipher than Chinese knots. The philosopher can do good by changing his society directly around him by opening their minds. When this happens, the “good” will automatically propagate like wildfire.

I would honestly sit down with such a person to discuss stuff, from ethics to art, to whatever. And in fact, I’ve done something similar once. In 2000, when I was still living in the UK, there was a (Catholic, I believe) monk in the High Street of Guildford (the town I was living at the time). He was sitting in the middle of the closed-down and busy-by-shoppers street, having a second chair next to him, with a sign saying that he’s available to talk. The time was 4 PM, it was almost night (November) and he was ready to pack and leave. I sat down with him and we talked. He did indeed help me (loneliness was my problem at the time), even if I wasn’t particular religious. He was a really smart guy! At the end, I asked him how many others sat with him that day. His reply: “you were the only one”.

Update: Translated to Greek.

Why the Mediterranean/Cretan diet WAS the best

A lot of people today still claim that the Mediterranean diet (especially the Cretan one) is the best diet in the world, but the truth is that it “was”, not “is”. Things changed in the last 30-40 years in these countries, and now the people living there are full of disease, as everyone else in all of the Western countries are. Having originated in rural Greece, this is my opinion why this diet worked well, until about the 1970s:

1. Geography
This is really the biggest point. This is a climate that it has harsh-enough winters and hot summers, surrounded by sea. All the fish, fruits, vegetables and meat one could think of can survive there. It is the best place to live in the world, food resources-wise. Too much of everything will kill you (even water), so Mediterranean people just ate seasonal things, a little bit of everything.

2. Spelt, not wheat
Cretans traditionally used spelt and farro/emmer (types of ancient wheat with low amount of gluten), not the Frankenstein selected wheat that’s available today. Additionally, very few of their dishes/foods used it. They would also not eat cereals (mainland Greece used a type of lacto-fermented porridge-like wheat cereal called “trahanas”). Gluten was not as omnipresent as it’s today for Cretans.

Today’s problem with gluten is two fold: first, we eat a sort of wheat super-gluten, bio-engineered & non-digestible. Secondly, it’s mostly a matter of reaching a certain threshold during our lifetime (different for each person), at which point our immune system can’t deal with it anymore (had too much of it). Cretans were never reaching such thresholds by using [fermented] spelt at low quantities. Rice/corn was not regular there either, while they always ate our potatoes skinless (skin is where potatoes store their toxins).

3. No sugar
Cretans would eat a lot of vegetables (a lot of them wild) and have fruits and honey as desserts. They would also use honey as a sweetener for some dishes. Both fruits and honey are mono-saccharides, which are the only sugars easily digestible by healthy humans. Poly-saccharides that don’t get digested end up in the gut, where they become food for the microbes that live there, over-populating them. The key to human health is the balance of the gut micro-biota.

4. Plenty of Omega-3
Lots of fish/shellfish and non-vegetable oils (they’d slowly cook with pure olive oil) means one thing: a better balance of omega-3 to omega-6. Possibly as close to 1:2, while most Western people today have a ratio of 1:25, literally killing them slowly.

5. Fermented legumes
As it’s been demonstrated in the lab, most legumes lose their lectins when they’re fermented. Fermentation is key to render a lot of “problematic” food inert. I clearly remember my mom fermenting our beans/lentils overnight (soaking them into water or dairy) before cooking them for a long time the next day. To be fair, not all legumes are created equal. Some are more poisonous than others (especially the colorful ones).

6. Fermented dairy from the right animals
Most dairy consumption in Greece was fermented AND from goats/sheep (not from cows). Goat/sheep’s casein is more compatible with the human digestion than modern cow casein. Greek yogurt has proved its efficacy aiding the fixing of gut problems, but also our cheeses carry a lot of this micro-biota too (not just the well known feta, try mizithra instead). The Greek equivalent of kefir is called xynogalo (although home-made kefir is more potent).

7. Coconut
For the Cretans in particular, coconuts actually grow there. The coconut factor is well known among Paleo dieters.

8. Local Delicacies
Cretans in particular would eat some types of insects, snails, raw artichokes and other types of food that are simply not common in the rest of the Mediterranean cuisine. These have nutrients not found elsewhere (e.g. insects have lots of K2 Mk4). And of course, a lot of wild, bitter greens (which thankfully they’re still common among older people in Greece).

9. Greek Mountain Tea
This is a miracle herbal tea that science only recently has started to unravel. Just read the research! I wish more Paleo people were aware of it, the thing works. Cretans also used dictamnus, a local herbal tea, also known for its health benefits.

10. Less red meat
As much as Paleo people would eat red meat almost daily, I’m actually not a big fan of this idea. I think meat should not be consumed more than 2-3 times a week. More (healthy, wild) fish and shellfish is best instead, and a lot of vegetable dishes are good too (even if you cook them in animal fat and bone broth).

11. Offal and bone broth
What, you thought they would throw that stuff to the dogs?!? They ate it! Delicious eggs from local hens too.

12. Lots of herbs
Herbs are known to help with various health conditions. In the Greek/Cretan cuisine, these are used a lot. These days mostly oregano is used, but in the older days there was a much wider array of herbs used.

13. Sun and exercise
A lot of sun, daily. Up in the mountains with the goats and sheep, or down to the fields. Nobody was a couch potato. And of course, snoozing under trees from 3 to 5 PM, when the heat was at its highest. My goat & sheep herder grandfather at 84 years old now can go up the rocky mountain like it’s leveled asphalt. I lose my breath after 3 minutes trying to catch him.

In other words, Cretans and most Greeks were closer to Paleo than most dietitians today would like you to think. When they push down Paleo and try to tell us that the original Cretan diet was the best, they need to get their facts straight, because the two diets are not as far apart as they would like you to think.

As to why the diet was better in Crete and not in another island (e.g. Sicily, Rhodes, Cyprus etc), I believe it’s because of its relative long distance from the mainland. Small boats could not make it to Crete, only bigger ones could. This relative isolation has made Cretans to keep their original, traditional diet for longer than other islands did. But it’s already gone now. Greece really became “modern” in the last 30-40 years (mostly after its induction to the European Union), so cow dairy became the norm, lots of wheat, cheap vegetable oils, and processed/sugar foods too, while the consumption of traditional fermented foods, offal, bone broth, wild mountain vegetables etc went down.

Update on stuff

I haven’t blogged here for a while, I mostly write on Facebook and my TumblR these days.

In the meantime my collages have taken off. I have over 3000 followers at TumblR now, and a lot of my collages are going viral lately. I even had a few sales! This has brought attention to some sites and wrote about my work, or interviewed me. Here’s two of them: 1, 2.


Normalization

I’m thinking of putting together an animated short movie using elements from my collages, we will see how this will turn out.

Other than that, I’m getting ready for a surgery (tumor that I had for years, thankfully benign), while right now I have a pinched nerve on my neck and I can’t do all that much. My Paleo diet is out of the window too, downgraded to plain gluten-free. I need to get back on the boat though, because my health can get bad without it. It will be my 1 year anniversary on 3rd of September, the day that I found the solution for my 10 year old health problem.

Regarding the “Private Auction” collage

Please allow me to self-review and speak out a bit about the artwork that I personally believe is the most significant that I’ve done so far. It’s about the collage titled “Private Auction“, and I published it last night. It has made absolutely no sensation at all in the TumblR circles, and yet, I believe that this is my best work to date (IMHO).

This is not an easy piece like the ones with a big round ball (e.g. a planet) in the middle of the frame, where the viewer just has to glance at it for 1 second, semi-understand it, and move on. These are the pieces that I’m actually embarrassed about, since they’re often shallow (yet strangely effective with the crowd because of their simplicity). Instead, “Private Auction” is a piece that has the most depth than any of my other artworks so far, and it requires more attention in order to be appreciated.

As with most of my artworks, to understand the piece you need to check the title. Some people reblog but they remove the title, and this does a disservice to my work, since without it they become lame, cheesy, or incomprehensible. I take pride to the fact that my art is rather accessible and hopefully relevant — definitely not super-abstract — because ~80% of the times I’m trying to say something concrete through them, rather than just sit pretty on a wall somewhere (or at a TumblR/FlickR page).

“Private Auction” feels like the still frame of life, or an old movie. We have two gentlemen looking at some artwork on the wall, with an auctioneer refereeing them. The auctioneer is holding a telephone on his hands, potentially having more clients on it. The older man on the back has a larger shadow, revealing the possibility of a darker character. As for the man on the front, he wears a wedding ring.

The naked woman almost blends with the colorful environment in the corner, even if she’s in black and white. She looks sad, like she’s miles away. She’s deep in thoughts, like she doesn’t belong to the scene. It’s only when you actually read the title that it becomes apparent that she is the actual trophy of the auction. The two buyers try to look casual looking at the artwork on the wall, as if they’re trying to mislead us, or as if there’s no difference between a status symbol object (e.g. expensive artwork), and a human being.

I have this belief that art needs to say something more often than not, but unfortunately, most art today is all about “fast aesthetics”, and the “wow” visual factor that lasts 2-3 seconds. In other words, it’s commercial art, an “easy to comprehend” art, specifically built for our excessively fast-paced life. I have a hard time believing that most of today’s commercial art will survive the test of time, and I’m certainly guilty of producing it, since I’ve done some such pieces too (e.g. “Restricted Space Air Show”, “Sunday” etc). But it’s pieces like “Private Auction” that give me hope that I’m able to produce something of some social importance. That maybe, since the work is mildly disturbing, it leaves a deeper, lasting impression to those who bothered to really look at it, rather than glance at it. That maybe, these viewers will be touched by the terrible situation depicted, a situation that is all around us today, and become more sensitive to the subject of modern slavery.